Beholden by Bronwyn Williams is a puzzling book – it’s not written by Bronwyn Williams. In reality, it’s written by the “sister team of Dixie Browning and Mary Williams.” For no particular reason, I will believe that this book was produced by an alien cult of metaphor enthusiasts. These enthusiasts did indeed write a good (not great) book, in which punctuation was genuinely punctuated. The plot was interesting but a smidge underdeveloped – there’s a storyline featuring murders and mayhem, which we hear almost nothing about. Murder needs suspense, and there was no suspense; it also needs a visible bad guy, and the bad guys here were a flop, indistinguishable in a soup of names.
The aliens hit upon a notable premise: Irish immigrants on North Carolina gambling boats in the mid-1800s – but they spent a lot of time on other things that didn’t end up affecting the plot much, like the divinations of the younger Irish sister, which somehow struck no chord with anybody else, not even her own piteously love-struck elder sister.
However, the aliens made a few mistakes which made it easy to figure out their ploy: firstly, they made us do math. Most romance novels will, at some point, tell you how old each of the characters are:
‘In all of my thirty four years, I never had sex with a manatee.’
‘She may have been nineteen and shoeless, but she knew things.’
‘Garth paused and thought, “Gee whiz, today’s nothing special.” It was only then that he remembered that he was turning forty-eight and it was high time for him to marry a twenty year old harpsichordist.’
This book is not in that category. It is no less subtle, but instead is a maddening huddle of words:
“Katy was eleven years younger. Margaret, the only other woman he’d ever considered himself in love with, had been several years older. One of these days, maybe he’d get it sorted out.” (Page 175)
To illustrate the insanity, I provide an example of my own:
“If Tracy has five balloons and Stacy has three less than George, how many live ermines does to take to line a submarine?”
Yeah, one day we will get it sorted out. Hah!
Second of all, the words for a woman’s anatomy were excruciatingly strange: both ‘nest’ and ‘trigger’ were in the same phrase. Why would you put a trigger in a nest? Just asking.
Lastly, the aliens decided that Irish women are allergic to food. Not the children – they eat like horses – the fiery-tempered adults in charge of those kids never seem to get a bite in edgeways. A good portion of the book involves the heroine – who we finally figure out is 22 years old – having the opportunity to eat but choosing to sleep instead. What’s worse, the hero decides that he likes this slim, waiflike woman – even though he thought that she was a child the first time he saw her. Not creepy, not at all.
One scene shows Mr. Fancy Boots attempting to goad Miss Seamstress into eating two bites of a sandwich. She falls asleep on him. In light of this, I can only assume that aliens hate sandwiches – and wedding night suppers and soup. They favor bread and tea, nearly exclusively.
All in all, the extraterrestrials turned out a good book, one that is maybe worth perusing. Perhaps if I read between the lines, I will understand their motivations for publishing a B-level love story on an insignificant planet. Is it code? Perhaps that makes the most sense…